Hassan Rouhani faces tough re-election race as candidate list closes

Saeed Kamali Dehghan Iran correspondent
Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, registers his candidacy for re-election. Photograph: Majid Saeedi/Getty Images

Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s moderate president who is seeking re-election, faces a boisterous race after heavyweight conservative figures critical of his landmark nuclear agreement with the west put themselves up to challenge him.

Registration for candidates in Iran’s presidential elections next month ended on Saturday, with a record number of 1,636 people putting their names on the list, including 137 women. On Friday, Rouhani took his ID card, a few passport-sized photos and other paperwork to the interior ministry in Tehran’s Fatemi Street to register to run for a second term. His four predecessors have all served two consecutive terms.

“I think definitely it has complicated the race,” Ansari said. “I think the fact that Raisi is coming, unless he steps aside, it looks very unlikely to me that the nezam [ruling system] would allow Raisi to be humiliated in an election. He hasn’t come to lose. He is an up-and-coming player in the system and in the last six months he’s basically come from nowhere.”

There are also concerns about Rouhani’s possible disqualification. That explains why his first deputy, Eshaq Jahangiri, a figure close to the reformists, also registered to run on Saturday. “I’m here to supplement Rouhani,” he said, meaning that his bid for the presidency was tactical and that he would drop out if Rouhani is allowed to run.

“Rouhani is not in as strong a position as we think he is, because he delivered the JCPOA [nuclear deal]. JCPOA in Iran is not seen as a giant triumph, and for me the problem for me is the way Rouhani sold it,” Ansari said.

“He has stablised the economy, but I think he made a number of very exaggerated claims, and he is now paying the price in the popular mood. But in an open election I think people would vote for Rouhani . Rouhani is the best of a bad choice, but at the same time I don’t think he’s as clear a winner as some people in the west would like to think.”

Although women have registered, all female nominees have previously been blocked from running. Azam Talaghani, a former MP and the daughter of a prominent revolutionary ayatollah, is among the women who have put their names on the list to test whether the authorities would allow women to run.

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